Dassault Aviation of France is offering the Indian Navy (IN) its Rafale M carrier-borne fighter to operate off the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier-II (IAC-II) it plans to build from 2020-21.

In a presentation to the IN in New Delhi on 29 January, Dassault executives stressed the benefits of operating twin-engine Rafale Ms alongside the 36 Rafale Cs the Indian Air Force (IAF) is in advanced negotiations to acquire in flyaway condition. They emphasised that the ‘commonality factor’ in deploying Rafale Ms would operationally benefit the IN in sourcing spares and accessing the IAF’s maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facilities for the French fighters, industry sources have told IHS Jane’s .

India signed a memorandum of understating (MoU) with France for the 36 Rafale Cs during French president François Hollande’s visit to Delhi in late January, with officials saying a more binding inter-governmental agreement (IGA) on the procurement was imminent.

Dassault is believed to have agreed to set up two MRO facilities for the IAF’s Rafales.

In around 2001-02 the IN opted for 45 single- and dual-seat Russian Mikoyan MiG-29K/KUB fighters for two of its two aircraft carriers for about USD2.8 billion, primarily because the IAF had been operating MiG-29s since 1985. It reasoned that this would provide the MiG 29Ks – deliveries of which will be completed by 2017 – with easy access to spares and MRO support from a wider user base.

The IN’s selection at the time had also revived Mikoyan’s flagging MiG-29 naval variant programme by ensuring that the aircraft carriers INSVikramaditya (ex-Admiral Gorshkov ) and INS Vikrant , which is scheduled to join IN service in late 2018, embarked only these fighters.

The IN is currently conceptualising IAC-II (likely to be called INS Vishal ), especially the complement of 50-55 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft it will carry, before starting to build it around 2020-21 and commissioning it a decade later.